Google Research has launched three new photography-based mobile apps showcasing the company’s latest experimental technologies.
Available variously for Android and iOS, the new apps are the first in an ongoing series of what it calls photography ‘appsperiments’ which the company defines as “usable and useful mobile photography experiences built on experimental technology.’’
These technologies include object recognition, person segmentation (think ‘portrait mode’), stylization algorithms (think ‘Prisma’), and efficient image encoding and decoding techniques. More importantly, they’re quite a lot of fun.
Storyboard (available on Android) takes existing video clips from your phone and converts them automatically into stylized comic-book layouts. The app searches for the most interesting moments in the video and lays them out before applying one of six built-in styles. You can’t edit the results (this app is about fun and experimentation, not professional comic book production), but a single downward swipe on the screen will generate a new comic strip. Just keep swiping down until you get one you like.
The results are quite effective but can, despite Google’s claim of ‘up to 1.6 trillion different possibilities’, become repetitive rather quickly. The ability to add text and tweak layouts would improve the app immeasurably. Maybe they’ll add that one day.
Selfissimo! (available for Android and iOS) creates a selection black and white selfies in the form of an automated photoshoot, complete with encouraging words from the ‘photographer’.
A tap on the screen begins the photo shoot which encourages you to strike poses, automatically taking a photo every time you stop moving. Between shots, it occasionally displays messages such as “Strike a Pose!”, “Hot!” or “You’re magical!” before finally presenting you with a contact sheet of images you can share as a collection or individually.
This app is sure to raise a few laughs but is ultimately rather gimmicky. It does, however, serve as a demonstration of Google’s considerable prowess in image processing and stone-cold sarcasm.
Personally, I can see this concept developing further into something more useful. For example, using machine learning to detect bad posing techniques and offer meaningful direction to the model (you) such as “chin down a bit”. “Turn to face the light” or “wipe that stupid pout your face.”
Finally, Scrubbies (currently available for iOS only) lets you create video loops from the most interesting bits of your video clips. Google suggests that you might like to ‘highlight actions, capture funny faces, and replay moments’ – and who wouldn’t!
The app works by swiping left and right on a video clip with one finger to play the video or with two fingers to capture playback so you can save it.
The result is something like a ‘Boomerang’ clip but with more sophisticated control over the motion in the video. Unfortunately, this app suffers from its inability to use pre-existing footage. You can only create a ‘Scrubbie’ from footage shot within the app.
It remains to be seen whether any of these new ‘appsperiments’ will replicate the viral success of apps like Prisma or Meitu, but it really doesn’t matter either way. What we have here are simply early glimpses of Google’s latest ideas which may or may not find their way into mainstream products. For now, they’re just a bit of fun.